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FDA: Antibiotics in Meat May Be a Health Threat

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By Admin on July 01, 2010 6:58 AM

On June 28, the Food and Drug Administration announced recommendations to the meat industry asking they cut back on the use of antibiotics in meat producing animals. The drugs should be given only for health reasons and not, the FDA said, to increase production and promote growth. This recommendation comes at a time when many are concerned about the link between antibiotics in animals and antibiotics-resistant strains of bacteria affecting humans.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a draft guidance statement from the FDA read, "The development of resistance to this important class of drugs, and the resulting loss of their effectiveness as antimicrobial therapies, poses a serious public health threat." The agency called on meat producers to consult more closely with veterinarians about when to use drugs and which compounds to employ.

As straightforward and strong as this statement sounds, it pleased no one. The Times reports that the statement upset a leading meat industry group, and managed to disappoint a key nonprofit science organization calling for sharper restrictions on antibiotics, as well.

According to a statement released by the National Pork Producers Council, the FDA guidance was overly burdensome and would rob the industry of drugs important to the health of animals. "There is no scientific study linking antibiotic food use in food animal production with antibiotic resistance," the statement said.

Margaret Mellon of the Union of Concerned Scientists disagreed, calling the Pork Producers Council statement, "patently untrue. There is a mountain of studies linking the use of antibiotics in animals to the evolution of resistant pathogens that cause human disease." The Union was hoping for more recommendations from the FDA as opposed to a statement of principle. "They're apparently expecting voluntary action. It's my belief that the industry's not going to act until it has to," Mellon said.

The FDA guidance applies to antibiotics deemed "medically important" because they also are useful in treating human illness.

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